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MLS launches ‘elite competition’ in wake of U.S. Soccer academy cuts

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Major League Soccer has announced a new league for boys academies, hours after U.S. Soccer announced its decision to eliminate its Development Academies for boys and girls due to financial worries brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pivotally, MLS is latching onto an opportunity by inviting both MLS Academies and non-MLS Academies affected by the USSF’s decision.

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“The competition will include league season matches and both regional and national tournaments with international teams,” reads a press release. “It will also expand coaching education and improve the approach to player identification to ensure top players have the opportunity to participate in a high-level development environment.”

MLS Academies further taking the lead in youth soccer would be a new and interesting step as the clubs are challenged by a growing Elite Clubs National League.

Soccer Wars, Pt. III: The Youth Movement.

Youth soccer has become big, big business and MLS has proved adept at increasing the value of its franchises. Putting this under its wing is a savvy, opportunistic decision.

The league could opt to focus on the U-16 and U-18 divisions in order to maximize what it can do with the youth player assets.

It will also be interesting to see if MLS plans to include members leagues in its “Homegrown” pool, and a source tells me that the new competition is news to at least some MLS academies. Clearly early days.

U.S. Soccer terminates Development Academy for boys and girls

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Tuesday’s report is now confirmed: The U.S. Soccer Federation has terminated its Development Academy after 13 years, calling it “a difficult financial decision.”

The federation says the decision is an effect of the coronavirus pandemic, which has “resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy program into the future.”

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It affects both the boys and girls sides of the aisle. So what does that mean for the future?

From USSoccer.com:

We know you will have a lot of questions about what this means for the future of your club, and we recognize those concerns.  While we do not have all the answers on what the future will look like across the youth soccer landscape, as the governing body of the sport in the United States we are committed to doing as much as we can to assist during these extremely challenging times.

In the immediate future, we will continue to engage all stakeholders across the youth soccer landscape. At the same time, we will also look to increase our efforts on coaching education as well as being engaged and active in the identification and scouting of youth players across the country for all our National Teams.

It reads like a strictly financial decision in which the federation could not justify keeping staff on the payroll with the DA season canceled for the summer and the Fall restart still in question.

The letter was signed by USSF CEO Will Wilson, sporting director Earnie Stewart, and fed president Cindy Parlow Cone.

Two of three have extensive background in the current youth climate (and Stewart certainly knows plenty).

Parlow Cone was director of coaching for NCFC Youth before ascending to USSF president. Wilson served on the board of directors for North Carolina FC along with USSF board member Steve Malik, who owns the USL side NCFC and NWSL side NC Courage, so there’s youth soccer experience at the DA and ECNL levels amongst others.

An interesting side note is that the rival Elite Clubs National League announced the addition of NCFC Youth before the federation released its statement. The boys side of the ECNL has been building in recent years and the girls side is already considered superior to the DA.

Major League Soccer academies are likely to form their own league, while others will race to join other professional leagues. Surely there will be start-ups as well, and hopefully U.S. Soccer will take steps to lower the sometimes exorbitant costs of putting a young player on a top soccer team.

Report: U.S. Soccer to terminate Development Academies for boys, girls

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The United States Soccer Federation is expecting to announce the terminate of its Development Academies on the boys and girls sides, reports The Athletic.

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It’s the first major decision to come out of Will Wilson’s nascent tenure as U.S. Soccer chief executive officer, and will make a sincere statement on behalf of relatively new USMNT and USWNT power figures Earnie Stewart, Brian McBride, and Kate Markgraf.

The DA featured close to 200 clubs, with teams competing from the U-12 to U-17/18 level and including all of the current MLS teams.

The 13-year-old league had announced new members for the 2020/21 season just last month, with MLS side Nashville SC and USL side Phoenix Rising among the new entrants.

All 26 current MLS teams, including the league’s three Canadian clubs, participate in the boys’ DA. It’s not clear what will happen to MLS academies now that the DA is no more, though, for a number of years, a segment of MLS teams have pushed to break away from the DA to start their own, MLS-only academy league. The main reason for this was due to their perception that the DA did not offer a strong enough level of competition.

This would be a monumental change for U.S. Soccer, though there is some concern that the federation is making a move to placate Major League Soccer. A source indicated to ProSoccerTalk that MLS teams would not be close to universal support for this change.

It’s impossible to judge the change without knowing the federation’s plans for top-level youth soccer. And the plans may be evolving. The termination of this summer’s youth soccer slate would already open the door to a redraw, and changing the DA would certainly see many clubs cut coaching jobs.

Wilson did serve on the board of directors for North Carolina FC along with USSF board member Steve Malik, who owns the USL side NCFC and NWSL side NC Courage, so there’s youth soccer experience at the DA and ECNL levels amongst others. Cindy Parlow Cone was director of coaching for NCFC Youth before ascending to USSF president.

Hopefully this is part of a wider plan to lower the costs of playing youth soccer in the country, or at least getting top talents from economically-challenged backgrounds easier access to development. Stop laughing. Stop.

Video: Orlando City product scores crazy bicycle kick

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Goals like this one below never grow old.

Orlando City academy product Alejandro Pereira scored a brilliant bicycle kick for his Under-17/18 side in their 2-0 win on Thursday night during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs.

Orlando will continue its path in the Academy Playoffs on Saturday when they face off against Players Development Academy (PDA) U-17/18, before meeting Indiana Fire U-17/18 on Monday.